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Monday, January 27, 2014

The Course in Miracles: Devil's Advocate

Not all of my Catholic upbringing was awful:  in college, I studied with some amazing Jesuit theologians and scholars, and I was taught the idea of service to those who are poor, suffering, in need, etc..
As a "baby Buddhist", I have been taught to give a dollar to a homeless person without worrying about where it's going to be spent, because it is an act of compassion.,.you do it "because".  One of the things I want to do, when Thistle is in school, is finally begin to participate in the local Zen Center's cooking for homeless people on Fridays.  Why all the work with the homeless and the downtrodden, in Buddhism?  Because the ideology is that not one of us is greater than the other, and all are deserving of compassion. One might not like what a person does, but one can be compassionate for their inherent humanity, without excusing or denying whatever they have done.  Trying to hold this in my consciousness does not always work for me, and I know I have one of the longest roads to go with these matters, if not the longest.  The struggles and questions I write about here are also mine.

Which brings me to the Course in Miracles.  I like it, but I see frankly disturbing things coming up as I try to find supplemental information about it.  One woman (I think it was on Beliefnet) wrote to an "authority" on the Course (are there really such people?) to say that she had a poor income flow, was working a nasty job, where she had to deal with masses of cockroaches every day, and was often hungry and despairing.  I cannot believe what the "expert" wrote back to her:  she was literally scolded that she'd drawn the cockroaches, the poverty, and the hunger unto herself and created them with her own thoughts, and that if she was doing the Course "right" she would not have these problems and the Holy Spirit would shower her with goodies.  Holy Spirit my butt!!  It reminded me of the nun who taught me in sixth grade saying that the poverty and hunger in India would be alleviated if the entire country converted to Christianity.  Maybe the "expert" could have suggested some REAL things the poor woman could do while she was submitting herself to the Holy Spirit--like job training, going back to school, etc.  Yes, poor self-esteem can make it very hard to create or imagine another reality--but real-life tools to dig out of the hole are often most helpful to people, and I would have loved to see the "expert" suggest a few.

I also feel that the Course has not yet addressed the one thing that makes me balk at it, still: the atrocities that happen everywhere in the world, and the alleviation of real human suffering.  I'm not saying the Course is bad at all--but I am taking it with a grain of salt now as I work with it.  It seems fine as a self-help text and perhaps a way to work on illusory thinking and inner peace, which is all fine and dandy for getting through daily life. Still,  I would love to see the Course in Miracles "expert" go to Darfur or the Congo, or back in time to Auschwitz and tell all the folks there that they have drawn these unimaginable horrors unto themselves because their thoughts created their reality.  The thoughts of INSANE people create these realities, which they then inflict upon innocent people.  One of my friends was murdered by a serial killer--did her thoughts create her own murder?  This is why I give psychobabble such a big old middle finger sometimes.  Sure, you can probably apply "thoughts equals reality" as a means to get a better house, or a job, or raise your self-esteem...but my question is: how can these ideas and beliefs be applied to help, even a little, a broken world and assist those whose sufferings we can barely imagine?

Let me know, because I am not hearing the answer in what I am studying in the Course...though I'll keep working on it.